Team roping also known as heading and heeling is a rodeo event that features a steer (typically a Corriente ) and two mounted cowboys. The steers are moved through narrow pathways leading to a chute with spring loaded doors. A rope of designated length determined by the length of the box is fastened around the steer’s neck which is used to ensure that the steer gets a head start. On one side of the chute is the header whose job is to rope the steer around the horns, neck or half-head, and turn the steer to the left. On the other side of the chute is the heeler whose job is to rope the steer around the hind legs.
The header sits on his horse to the left of the steer in an area called the box . A taut rope fastened with an easily broken string called the barrier runs in front of the header and is fastened to the rope on the steer. When the header is ready, s/he calls for the steer and the chute help trips a lever opening the doors. The suddenly freed steer breaks out running. When the steer reaches the end of the rope, the string breaks and simultaneously releases the barrier. The header must rope the steer around the horns and then take a dally , that is a couple of wraps of the rope around the horn of the saddle. Speed is important and some have lost fingers in this event. Once the header has made the dally, he will turn his horse and the steer will follow, still running.
The heeler waits until the header has turned the steer. When he has a clear way, he throws a loop of rope under the running steer’s hind legs and catches them. As soon as the steer is stretched out, an official waves a flag and the time is taken. The steer is released and trots off. There is a 5 second penalty for roping only one hind leg and a 10 second penalty for breaking the barrier.
The event takes between 4 and 12 seconds for a professional team. Originally cowboys employed this same technique on the open range to work cattle.